Friday April 18th, 2014, 2:30 pm (EDT)

Global Economic Crisis

Global Economic Crisis

Structural Crisis in the World-System

Where Do We Go from Here?1

I have written repeatedly on the structural crisis in the world-system, most recently in New Left Review in 2010. So, I shall just summarize my position, without arguing it in detail. I shall state my position as a set of premises. Not everyone agrees with these premises, which are my picture of where we are at the present time. On the basis of this picture, I propose to speak to the question, where do we go from here?… | more |

The Crisis of Capitalism in Europe, West and East

There are three dimensions to the current, unprecedented global crisis of capitalism: economic, ecological, and political.… | more |

Let us look first at the economic dimension, which will be our main concern in this article. Capitalism is facing a major realization crisis—an inability to sell the output produced, i.e., to realize, in the form of profits, the surplus value extracted from workers’ labor. Neoliberalism can be viewed as an attempt initially to solve the stagflation crisis of the 1970s by abandoning the “Keynesian consensus” of the “golden age” of capitalism (relatively high social welfare spending, strong unions, and labor-management cooperation), via an attack on labor. It succeeded, in that profit rates eventually recovered in the major capitalist economies by the 1990s… | more |

The Great Financial Crisis—Three Years On

The Great Financial Crisis began in the summer of 2007 and three years later, despite a putative “recovery,” it is still having profound effects in the United States, Europe, and in much of the world. Austerity is being forced on working people in many countries. Matters are especially difficult in Greece, a country that is being compelled by the demands of bankers, including the International Monetary Fund, to squeeze its workers in return for loans from abroad to help pay down government debts. Official unemployment in the United States is still around 10 percent, and real unemployment is much higher. An unprecedented 44 percent of the officially unemployed have been without work for over six months. A record number of people are receiving government food assistance as well as meals and groceries from charities. Many U.S. states and cities, facing large shortfalls in their budgets due to falling tax revenues, are cutting jobs and reducing funding for schools and social programs… | more |

The Limits of Minsky’s Financial Instability Hypothesis as an Explanation of the Crisis

Aside from Keynes, no economist seems to have benefitted so much from the financial crisis of 2007-08 as the late Hyman Minsky. The collapse of the sub-prime market in August 2007 has been widely labeled a “Minsky moment,” and many view the subsequent implosion of the financial system and deep recession as confirming Minsky’s “financial instability hypothesis” regarding economic crisis in capitalist economies.…Recognition of Minsky’s intellectual contribution is welcome and deserved. Minsky was a deeply insightful theorist about the proclivity of capitalist economies to experience financially driven booms and busts, and the crisis has confirmed many of his insights. That said, the current article argues that his theory only provides a partial and incomplete account of the current crisis.… | more |

Listen Keynesians, It’s the System! Response to Palley

In an article entitled “Listen, Keynesians!,” published in January 1983 in Monthly Review, Harry Magdoff and Paul Sweezy argued that the radical break that John Maynard Keynes’s General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money (1936) represented for orthodox economics lay in the fact that “For the first time the possibility was frankly faced, indeed placed at the very center of the analysis, that breakdowns of the accumulation process, the heart and soul of economic growth, might be built into the system and non-self correcting.”…In November 1982, only two months before the publication of “Listen, Keynesians!,” Magdoff and Sweezy had pointed out in “Financial Instability: Where Will it All End?” that the question as to whether a major financial crisis (on the scale of 1929) could propel the economy into a deep downturn, approaching the scale of the Great Depression of the 1930s, was still an open one. They were responding here to Hyman Minsky, a proud Keynesian (albeit with socialist leanings), “whose views,” they claimed, were “especially worthy of attention precisely because over the years he has been the American economist who has done more than any other to focus on the crucially important destabilizing role of the financial system in advanced capitalist countries.”… | more |

Food Wars

In 2006–08, food shortages became a global reality, with the prices of commodities spiraling beyond the reach of vast numbers of people. International agencies were caught flatfooted, with the World Food Program warning that its rapidly diminishing food stocks might not be able to deal with the emergency.… | more |

The Credit Crisis: Is the International Role of the Dollar at Stake?

As the first tremors of the looming financial crisis ripped through Wall Street, with the meltdown of the subprime mortgage market in the summer of 2007, the dollar plunged sharply. Perversely however, even as some financial pundits were foretelling its collapse, the deepening of the crisis following the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers in September 2008 actually saw the dollar gain ground sharply (for the first time since the steady decline that began in 2002.… | more |

A Failed System: The World Crisis of Capitalist Globalization and its Impact on China

In referring in my title here to “A Failed System” I do not of course mean that capitalism as a system is in any sense at an end. Rather I mean by “failed system” a global economic and social order that increasingly exhibits a fatal contradiction between reality and reason—to the point, in our time, where it threatens not only human welfare but also the continuation of most sentient forms of life on the planet. Three critical contradictions make up the contemporary world crisis emanating from capitalist development: (1) the current Great Financial Crisis and stagnation/depression; (2) the growing threat of planetary ecological collapse; and (3) the emergence of global imperial instability associated with shifting world hegemony and the struggle for resources. Such structural weaknesses of the system, as Joseph Schumpeter might have said, are the product of capitalism’s past successes, but they raise catastrophic problems and failures in the present nonetheless.1 How we choose to act today in response to this failed system is therefore the most critical question that humanity has ever faced.… | more |

November 2008, Volume 60, Number 6

November 2008, Volume 60, Number 6

» Notes from the Editors

In the Notes from the Editors for the September issue of Monthly Review (written in late July) we asked why, with the United States bailing out the financial sector of the economy to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars, there was no public outrage. As we observed at that time, “In the end there seems to be no satisfactory explanation for lack of popular protest over a series of ad hoc grants showering hundreds of billions of dollars of public money on the masters of finance, collectively the richest group of capitalists on the planet. And that raises the question: Is this outrage present nonetheless, growing underground, unheard and unseen? Will it suddenly burst forth, like some old mole, unforeseen and in ways unimagined?” The collapse of Lehman Brothers on September 15, the resulting freezing up of credit markets, U.S. Secretary of Treasury Henry Paulson’s emergency plan for a $700 billion bailout of financial firms, offering “cash for trash,” i.e., proposing to buy up the toxic waste of virtually worthless mortgage-backed securities at taxpayer expense—quickly answered our question. When the U.S. Treasury got into the act with its bailout proposal, requiring Congressional authorization (previously the Federal Reserve had led the way in bailouts, to the point that treasury securities had sunk to just over half of the Fed’s assets, as we explained in September), all hell finally broke loose. Suddenly, the public outrage that had been growing beneath the surface burst forth. The U.S. capitalist class was abruptly confronted with a major political as well as economic crisis… | more |

Four Crises of the Contemporary World Capitalist System

This essay examines aspects of the global political economy that I hope will inform progressive governments and movements for social change. It evaluates the constraints and opportunities presented in the current conjuncture of world capitalist development by analyzing four areas of crisis in the contemporary world capitalist system. These are not the only contradictory elements in the contemporary conjuncture, but they are, in my view, the most salient… | more |

September 2008, Volume 60, Number 4

September 2008, Volume 60, Number 4

» Notes from the Editors

Just over a year since the beginning of the worst U.S. financial crisis since the Great Depression, and only six months after the federal bailout of Bear Stearns, the seizing up of credit markets continues. The failure of eight U.S. banks this year, including IndyMac, and the recent instability that struck the two government-sponsored mortgage giants, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, requiring a special government rescue operation, has had the entire financial world on edge. Mortgage-related losses by themselves “could cause a trillion dollars in credit to vaporize,” according to a special July 28, 2008,Business Week report. The downside effects of financial leveraging (the magnification of results associated with borrowed money) mean that each dollar lost by financial institutions could lead to reductions in lending of fifteen dollars or more, creating a shockwave so massive that it could reveal structural weaknesses throughout the economy. Already the economy is reeling, with faltering growth, a deep slump in housing, massive job losses, rapidly rising oil and consumer goods prices, and a falling dollar… | more |

June 2008, Volume 60, Number 2

June 2008, Volume 60, Number 2

» Notes from the Editors

The first third of 2008 should have been a wake-up call to those who, in the short-lived days of capitalist triumphalism, were inclined to lose sight of the immediacy of the internal contradictions of capitalism and of the resistance that the system continuously regenerates. The enormous extent of today’s combined world food-and-economic crisis is now patently obvious. Anti-imperialist and anticapitalist initiatives are once again mushrooming around the globe.… | more |

The Subprime Debacle

As the United States braces itself for the onset of a recession, much of the blame for the current downturn is being attributed to the recent subprime mortgage crisis. While boom and bust cycles in real estate markets are nothing new, what distinguishes the current crisis is that the massive run-up in home prices was driven by the proliferation of new forms of securitized finance that permitted massive sums of loan capital to be pumped into the property markets. Only a few years prior these exotic financial products were being touted for their ability to hedge risk and achieve a more efficient allocation of credit. Buoyed by an exuberant sense that the wizards of Wall Street had so thoroughly transformed the nature of risk that the rules of the game had been fundamentally altered, investor demand for these securities exploded, and the underwriting and trading of these new forms of engineered debt underwent an extraordinary period of growth…… | more |

The Financialization of Capital and the Crisis

With the benefit of hindsight, few now doubt that the housing bubble that induced most of the recent growth of the U.S. economy was bound to burst or that a general financial crisis and a global economic slowdown were to be the unavoidable results. Warning signs were evident for years to all of those not taken in by the new financial alchemy of high-risk debt management, and not blinded, as was much of the corporate world, by huge speculative profits. This can be seen in a series of articles that appeared in this space: “The Household Debt Bubble” (May 2006), “The Explosion of Debt and Speculation” (November 2006), “Monopoly-Finance Capital” (December 2006), and “The Financializ-ation of Capitalism” (April 2007). In the last of these we wrote…… | more |

An Age of Transition: The United States, China, Peak Oil, and the Demise of Neoliberalism

Until recently, the global capitalist economy has enjoyed a period of comparative tranquility and grown at a relatively rapid pace since the global economic crisis of 2001–02. During this period of global economic expansion there have been several important economic and political developments. First, the United States—the declining hegemonic power but still the leading driving force of the global capitalist economy—has been characterized by growing internal and external financial imbalances. The U.S. economy has experienced a period of debt-financed, consumption-led “expansion” with stagnant wages and employment, and has been running large and rising current account deficits (the current account deficit is a broad measure of the trade deficit). Second, China has become a major player in the global capitalist economy and has been playing an increasingly important role in sustaining global economic growth. Third, global capitalist accumulation is imposing growing pressure on the world’s natural resources and environment. There is increasingly convincing evidence that the global oil production will reach its peak and start to decline in a few years. Fourth, the U.S. imperialist adventure in the Middle East has suffered devastating setbacks and there has been growing resistance to neoliberalism and U.S. imperialism throughout the world.… | more |

Global Economic Crisis, Neoliberal Solutions, and the Philippines

The economic crisis that has been affecting the global economy for the last two and a half years started in East Asia. We’ve heard story after story about the problems in Thailand, South Korea, Indonesia, Malaysia, China, and even Japan—but we’ve heard almost nothing about the situation in the Philippines. Is there something that the U.S. government, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the World Bank don’t want us to know about the situation there? … | more |

The Geopolitics of the Asian Crisis

The Chinese character for “crisis” combines the ideas of danger and opportunity. In the span of about one year, a regional economic “miracle,” with its promise of continued high economic growth and opportunity for all, was transformed into a severe regional, and potentially global, economic collapse. It has seriously endangered the livelihood of millions of people, causing untold misery and suffering … | more |

December 1998, Volume 50, Number 7

December 1998, Volume 50, Number 7

» Notes from the Editors

Back in 1972, when one of us was living in Toronto, the Canadian national hockey team played a series of much publicized games against the Soviet Union. Horror of horrors, the Soviet team started winning. The defeat of Canada’s favorites at its own national sport, and, worst of all, at the hands of Communists, was an occasion for some deep national soul-searching in the mainstream press. There were some astonishing editorials, which came very close to questioning the fundamental values of capitalism if it could so weaken the moral fiber of Canadians as to lead them to defeat by the Communist adversary at their very own game … | more |

June 1998, Volume 50, Number 2

June 1998, Volume 50, Number 2

» Notes from the Editors What’s the matter with Japan? According to today’s conventional wisdom—i.e., what we are told by the media and the syndicated pundits—almost everything. Its economy, the second largest in the world, is in a long-term crisis that affects on everyone else, most severely the United States, and it stubbornly refuses to do […]… | more |

March 1998, Volume 49, Number 10

March 1998, Volume 49, Number 10

» Notes from the Editors

A striking feature of the mountain of talk about the Asian crisis is that its root cause is all too often ignored The focus of the media and the pundits is on weak banks, bad management, corrupt officials, heavy indebtedness, excess speculation, and the fragility of the financial markets. Typically, the disaster is viewed as a regional affair. A rare exception is the statement of Eisuke Sakakibara, Japan’s vice-minister for international finance: “This isn’t an Asian crisis. It is a crisis of global capitalism.” (Business Week, January 26, 1998) But he too was apparently thinking of financial markets, concerned with effects, not causes … | more |